According to Assistant Police Commissioner Bryan Bell, the solution to the drugs problem is to give police more power. This while former police officers are suggesting that many of the issues stem from major reductions in the narcotics departments and less officers walking the beat. Do these issues continue to point to a lack of overall resources in terms of manpower and problems with the structure of the Bermuda Police Service as suggested by former officers?
According to Mr. Bell
“A lot of drug dealers’ activities are run on cash. They have numerous ways of developing their wealth and attempting to legitimize their assets.
“One of the areas of discussion we are having at the moment is looking at a change in the legislation to provide for what is known as civil forfeiture of criminal assets.
“It basically means you can go after someone who you can show to the courts of having gained their money from criminal means without having to necessarily convict them of a criminal offence.
“It’s done in the UK at the moment with the asset confiscation agency.”
Interesting. Googling asset confiscation agency turns up little. What actually is turned up is the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) which, in June 2006 BBC News reported it as ‘failing’ and in January of 2007 it was reported as abolished through it’s amalgamation with the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA). Reading these reports gives a clear indication that the largest failure of the ARA was that it cost far more to run than what it ultimately recovered and that court processes were arduous as authorities fought to seize criminal assets. Would such an agency have success for Bermuda in curbing drug dealing as suggested by Mr. Bell? What impact would this have on our courts to have a rise in even more cases and would this proposal ultimately be worth the cost?
Another suggestion came from Former National Drugs Control Minister Wayne Perinchief, who recommended that we copy Britain’s Anti-social Behavior Act to enable a speedy crackdown on homes used as drug hangouts. But Mr. Bell interestingly suggests anti-social behavior order (ASBO) laws are extremely bureaucratic and involved hours of work before they could be put in place.
“The idea that you just wheel someone into the court and get an ASBO is not what happens in reality.
“Many councils have to employ lawyers just to maintain ASBO’s and the actual number taken out are still relatively small. “
How would an ARA have a different impact if it were to result in similar needs with regards to courts and bureaucracy? Other criticisms of ASBO’s include the lack of anonymity offered to young offenders and that because ASBO cases are heard in civil courts, complaints do not have to be proven beyond reasonable doubt, but merely judged on the balance of probability.
Former police officers interviewed by the Mid Ocean News contest that current issues with the Bermuda Police Service stem from restructuring that have “reduced the narcotics and criminal investigations departments to half their size and removed community officers from its roster completely”, an “absence of an overall strategy for policing the island” along with recruiting and training problems. All of which point to issues with regards to the ability to recruit and train manpower resources both locally and abroad.
What is the solution to the drugs problem? Should we be giving police more legislative power through the introduction of an Assets Recovery Agency or Anti-social Behaviour Orders or are these issues stemming from a lack of resources and problems with the structure of the Bermuda Police Service?